New Swedish law lowers age to change legal gender from 18 to 16

Bill eliminates need for gender dysphoria diagnosis

Arpan Rai
Thursday 18 April 2024 09:01 BST
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The Swedish parliament has lowered the age at which people can change their gender from 18 to 16, making the process of legal gender reassignment easier.

Those under 18 will be required to submit an approval from a guardian, a doctor, and the National Board of Health and Welfare.

A total of 234 lawmakers cleared the bill on Wednesday while 94 of them were against it after a debate lasting nearly six hours. The debate saw absenteeism from 21 MPs.

The bill also eliminates the need for gender dysphoria diagnosis – medically defined as psychological distress experienced by those whose gender expression does not match their gender identity.

Sweden now joins its other Nordic allies like Norway, Finland and Denmark who enjoy similar laws around gender identity.

The country’s new proposal has sparked a fierce debate on the bill which allows self-identification and further simplifies procedures. It saw opposition from the Sweden Democrats, a populist party with far-right roots.

It is “deplorable that a proposal that clearly lacks the support of the population is so lightly voted through”, Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, told reporters.

Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister’s centre-right coalition, has been divided on the issue seeing backing from the Moderates and the Liberals but resistance from Christian Democrats.

Johan Hultberg, an MP representing the ruling conservative Moderates party, called the clearance of the bill “gratifying” and “a cautious but important reform for a vulnerable group”. “I’m glad we’re done with it.”

He told parliament “the great majority of Swedes will never notice that the law has changed, but for a number of transgender people the new law makes a large and important difference”.

Civil society groups have lauded the passage of the bill.

It is “a step in the right direction” and “a recognition for everyone who has been waiting for decades for a new law”, said Peter Sidlund Ponkala, chair of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights, known by its Swedish acronym RFSL.

Elias Fjellander, chairman of the organisation’s youth branch, said it would make life better for its members. “Going forward, we are pushing to strengthen gender-affirming care, to introduce a third legal gender and to ban conversion attempts,” Fjellander said in a statement.

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